Presence: The Heartspeak of Indigenous Poets: Killa Ch’aska


This country carries a heavy history of words weaponized in so many unspeakable ways. We must face these times of worry and fear with all of our strength and ancestral power. Storytelling and bearing witness through art is a communal tool for survival. These continue to be times where we need poetry the most. And so, we come together to share experience, songs, stanzas, and phrases to invoke resilience and grit to challenge obstacles and embrace the humanity of Mother Earth and all of her inhabitants.

In honor of Native American Heritage Month I would like to celebrate and uplift several Indigenous writers whose words inspire us to continue to share our voices and our truths. 

We are still here, I type these words while sitting on Ute, Cheyenne, and Arapaho lands. We are still here, fingers on keys. We are still here, voice in throat. We are still here, blood in memory, we remember. We are still here, we re-member ourselves into survivance. The presence of these poets’ pulses through the literary landscape to help us survive our loneliness and silences, to bless us with light, and to bear witness to our presence in all forms.

– Tanaya Winder


To the Women

To the women,
whose backbones are like railroads
far too used to carrying weight
on bones that have eroded.
I see you.

To the women,
who carry razorblades under tongue
to fight off words
disguised as weapons.
I see you.

To the women,
who prepare their hearts for feast,
giving to their communities
more light than they receive.
I see you.

To the women,
who put hands and knees on dirt
to shrink themselves
So that others can see.
I see you.

To those women,
All those women.

I am you too.


Photograph of Killa Ch’aska by Felix Atencio-Gonzales.

Killa Ch’aska is from Listuguj First Nation in Mi'gmaq Territory (Quebec, Canada). Proud of her Mi'gmaq and Quechua ancestry she enthusiastically shares and expresses her culture through different artistic expressions—as a poet and spoken word artist and as a visual artist. Along with her artistic expression, Killa enjoys work that contributes to youth and community development, Indigenous relations, and education. More from this author →